Thistle's staying power uplifts Archibald

THEY are staying up.

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Kallum Higginbotham can't contain his emotions after his goal secured the win which would keep Jags in top flight
Kallum Higginbotham can't contain his emotions after his goal secured the win which would keep Jags in top flight

Retaining their place in the SPFL Premiership has never looked like mission impossible for Partick Thistle and now it is mission accomplished.

After a nine-year absence from Scotland's top flight, the Jags have guaranteed themselves another 12 months at this level, a 4-2 win over Hearts at Tynecastle last night their most important triumph of an impressive campaign.

It is a deserved achievement for the Firhill side and manager Alan Archibald who, a year after guiding his side to the First Division title, has now ensured Thistle will be no one-season wonders.

They have done it with a style and philosophy that has won them many admirers and, with 38 points now collected, they could yet finish a remarkable seventh this term.

Archibald said: "It is a massive relief. The first emotion is relief, to be honest. I am just glad to get over the line and not go into the play-offs. I don't envy the managers looking forward to Saturday or the play-offs.

"It is hard to put into words, it is massive for everyone at the club. I have been through relegation and it is horrible.

"It affects everyone at the club and everything you do from having your lunch to the secretarial staff, it affects the whole shooting match. It is massive and I think the fans deserve to stay up.

"I said to the boys that there is no reason why we can't be a St Mirren or a St Johnstone, they are the benchmark for us, they have stayed up.

"You work hard all year and you try to play the right way and do the right things to stay in the league. The lads are an inexperienced side and it has let them down at times, even the first half tonight. But, by god, they answered their critics in the second half, they were outstanding."

With a clash with Ross County still to come this weekend, it wasn't exactly win-or-bust for Thistle last night, but they were determined to avoid what would have been a nerve-shredding afternoon at Firhill.

They twice found themselves behind after sloppy defending allowed Callum Paterson and Danny Wilson to score either side of a Lyle Taylor equaliser, after he collected a neat flick on from Kallum Higginbotham.

The break came at just the right time for Thistle as Archibald got the chance to address his troops and rally them for what would be a momentous 45 minutes.

His words of encouragement certainly paid off as Thistle shone after the break, hitting three goals without reply to clinch the win.

The first was the best of the lot, Gary Fraser pulling the Jags level with a superb long-range effort that flew into the top corner of Mark Ridgers' net and, with the finishing line in their sights, Thistle made sure they didn't fall at the final hurdle.

Lee Mair got the third to put Archibald's side within touching distance of safety as he headed home at the back post and, fittingly after a superb season and another brilliant performance, it was Higginbotham who would put the tin lid on it.

Archibald said: "It is [a better feeling than winning the First Division] because of the tension, the relief, everything involved in it, the emotion.

"It is such a massive carrot, once you are in the league you realise what is at stake. It is not just financial, it is the status of playing in this league.

"The boys all love it. It is everything that goes with it and, by god, you miss it when it goes.

"It is bigger than anything I have done in the game. The lads have been a credit to themselves, they have been outstanding."

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